In the dead of night, at the conclusion of his conversation with Felmenia, the King heard the door to his audience room swing open.
The one entering was Yakagi Suimei, the friend of the Hero and the one Felmenia had explained to be a mage from another world.
This ordinary-looking boy from another world bowed at the entrance, and then slowly approached.
Although the impression he gave off was identical to the one he’d felt from Suimei when they’d first met in this same room, he was now attired in clothing that the King had never seen before. This clothing was uniformly pitch black, and elegantly designed: clearly of the highest quality.
Visibly unaccustomed to such situations, Suimei’s posture was a bit stiff as he kneeled before the King.
“As summoned, I have come before you, Your Majesty.”
“Thank you for answering my summons despite the late hour. Your formality in presenting yourself is appreciated, but tonight, it’s just the two of us. There’s no need to be so formal. Please relax.”
“Is that unacceptable?”
Surprised at the request, Suimei hesitated for a moment heeding the plea and raising his head.
His expression, however, was still somewhat stiff.
At this, the King opted not to jump right into the main topic, but instead asked about his clothing.
“Suimei-dono, what is this clothing you have on? You don’t wear this normally.”
“That is correct. This is something I’ve brought with me from our world. Originally, it was something I kept in my bag, one of the very few items I have with me.”
“The style seems rather different from Hero-dono’s.”
“In our world, it’s considered formal wear, and is worn on occasions such as this.”
His words caused the King to again consider the clothing Suimei now wore. The jet black material was entirely uncreased and the inner lace lining ran to the neck. The stark contrast drawn by the two reinforced the feeling of an elegant design.
“Hmm. It fits you rather well.”
“Thank you for your praise, Your Majesty.”
As Suimei replied, he adjusted his collar and sleeves without shifting his posture. This action brought with it a familiarity that erased his former stiffness. Suddenly, as if remembering something of importance, he bowed his head.
“Although this comes rather late, but please allow me to apologize for my rudeness these last few days.”
A truly respectful apology.
—Suimei was apologizing for his behavior after their summoning. On that day, having learned that they had no way of returning home, he’d become quite agitated. That said, such a response was only natural given the circumstances.
On that occasion, Suimei had leapt to his feet and yelled, “Are you kidding me? If you can’t send us back, then don’t bother summoning us in the first place!” and things of that nature. Indeed, they had been words that had truly hurt the King.
Suimei’s provocative attitude had angered the surrounding people. The King, attempting to mediate, had ordered them to settle down, never expecting that Suimei would later come and apologize.
“Oh, no, that’s unnecessary. No harm done. Your feelings at the time were only natural. We had one-sidedly pulled you into our world only to inform you that we have no way of sending you home. There is no need for you to apologize; please raise your head.”
The King’s honest words prompted Suimei to lift his head once more. From his expression, it was clear that he felt it wasn’t a matter of who was to blame; either way, he felt the commotion caused by his actions had been inappropriate. This was apparent from the awkward look on his face.
With this, the preamble to their conversation had ended.
Suimei spoke next, “Might I ask what you called me here to speak about…?”
“Yes. There are things that I wish to ask you.”
Suimei’s acknowledgment revealed his confusion, and his slightly pale face was colored with puzzlement. Considering for a moment whether the look Suimei showed now were his true thoughts revealing themselves, the King followed up with a question.
“There are a few things I wish to ask you regarding Felmenia.”
“Felmenia-san…? If I remember correctly, she’s the one who’s been teaching Reiji and Mizuki magic? What about her?”
“That is the one. She mentioned to me that she’d seen you wander around the palace a few days ago.”
Faced with Suimei’s pretense at having only a superficial knowledge of who Felmenia was, the King brought up what he had heard from her.
Those words brought a weak, bitter smile to Suimei’s face, as if something unpleasant had been discovered about him.
“Ah… hahaha. Yeah, I’d heard that we were free to roam the palace, so I’d gone for a walk to settle myself. Was I somehow incorrect about that?”
“No, there was nothing inappropriate about that. Indeed, I’d given explicit orders to that effect. No, it’s not that incident that concerns me.”
“Then what, might I ask?”
Confusion was written all over Suimei’s face. It must be noted, however, that that expression was not born of his true feelings. Having mentioned Felmenia, but having said nothing about her, it was clear that he had understood from the very beginning the purpose of this line of questioning, but fully intended nonetheless to play dumb. Indeed, from the very moment he’d been summoned for questioning, he’d begun this show of ignorance. To have been summoned at such a time would undoubtedly give rise to some misgivings. If the King were Suimei, he’d have made some preparations beforehand. Given his powers, he would likely have readied himself to make a forceful escape if necessary. Since the other party was a mage who had defeated Felmenia, it wasn’t like there was much the King could do; escape should be simple for Suimei.
With that in mind, the fact that he had not done so seemed to show that he thought he could wrap things up nicely by simply playing the fool.
Accordingly, though he knew that continuing would be dangerous, the King had no choice but to press forward.
“What I want to know is: what exactly did you do to Felmenia?”
” ‘What did I do?’ I can’t say I understand what you mean.”
“Suimei-dono, you very well know what I mean. Please be honest—”
“Forgive my disrespect, but are you sure that continuing would be wise?”
As if to drown out the King’s voice, Suimei interrupted his words with a razor-edged “suggestion” in stark contrast to the polite tone he’d been using.
Understanding the warning implicit in Suimei’s words, he nevertheless continued, “Suimei-dono. I want to know.”
Seeing the King persist despite having recognized his warning, Suimei abandoned his reverent posture and rose to his feet.
With a wave of his hands, a cloak appeared from out of thin air and settled on his shoulders.
Although he didn’t quite understand what had just happened, but it was evident that this was Suimei’s magic. This was something that a mage of their world lacked the capability to comprehend, a spell of Suimei’s repertoire.
Appearing on his face next was an expression that made his former look of fear seem but an illusion. His gentle expression was replaced with a sharp look which carried with it a proud air that the King had only seen in other mages.
Typically, this audience room would be filled with people who would have berated Suimei for his arrogance, but at this moment, there were none.
Seeing the King’s gaze captured by this first glimpse of him as a magician, Suimei sighed.
“—Honestly. That girl’s shown no trace of having kicked the bucket, so I’m sincerely surprised things have been exposed to this degree.”
“So that’s really…”
“Yes, it’s as you imagine. My identity as a magician was discovered by that girl when we first arrived, so I searched for the first opportunity to shut her mouth, and so here we are. —On that note, that girl shouldn’t be able to speak a word, so how did you figure things out, Your Majesty?”
“I took the proactive role in questioning her. Whenever she failed to respond, it signified that I had guessed correctly.”
At this succinct explanation, Suimei expressed an “Ah” of enlightenment.
“So that’s how it is; I completely missed that possibility. Indeed, the contract binding her can be circumvented by not speaking a word.”
His words were delivered casually as if reminsicing, when suddenly his gaze sharpened and focused on the King.
“Then why did you call me here? I am, after all, the man who holds that woman’s life in his hands. Since you know as much, for you to have called me here without any bodyguards to protect you… That this is dangerous should be incredibly apparent.”
This was indeed readily apparent, and had been the danger inherent in this summons. Despite knowing the danger posed, he’d nonetheless called Suimei forth without any countermeasures in place. Thus, Suimei’s question was understandable; nevertheless, it had been necessary for the King to call him here.
“—There is undoubtedly cause for concern, but it is also the truth that Suimei-dono and Hero-dono were both brought here at my command. That is reality. Furthermore, that I have pushed our world’s unreasonable problems on the hands of all of you, who are not of our world, is also reality.”
To bare his fangs at Suimei was unconscionable. To do so would make him nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. An utterly unreasonable plan of action.
“Suimei-dono. For having brought you here to this foreign place and having failed to stop my subjects from scorning you, I ask your forgiveness. Moreover, to ask you to heed a request on top of all of that is indeed rude of me. Nonetheless, I must tell you that I still want to know. Would that be alright?”
“Why do you want to know so badly? It’s nothing to you if you don’t know, right?”
“Perhaps what you say is correct, however, but if I were to avert my eyes and pretend to have seen nothing, and were she to lose her life in the process, it would be too late for regret.”
“—Even if it’s someone as haughty as that woman?”
“Just so. She is my subject, and thus it is only right that I do my best to protect her.”
Those words again elicited a sigh from Suimei.
“As long as she does not speak, there is no threat to her life, none whatsoever. Alright, with that, we’re done here, right?”
“No, not yet.”
“I believe there’s nothing else worthy of discussion?” Suimei replied, a strange look on his face.
Things had taken an unexpected turn. Even though the topic at hand had concluded, there was still more to ask?
“Suimei-dono, I am still fully ignorant of your situation. As the one responsible for having brought you to this world, I wish to know. What kind of person are you? What do you plan to do from now on? I desire that you be frank with me. If at all possible, I would hope that you would be open with me.”
These words truly came from his heart.
When it came to Suimei, as long as he and Felmenia kept quiet, then that would be that. Those who knew of his circumstances would remain just the two. With that, things would return to the status quo: he would have summoned the Hero and sent him off to battle with the Maou.
However, to act in such a way would be to discard all responsibility as the one who had brought them to this world. Since he had taken action to bring them here of his own accord, were he to simply ignore any problems that arose, focusing only on his own needs, even if they possessed the power to free him from this situation, such a path could only be described as irresponsible. Instead, he hoped to understand Suimei’s plans, and thus to provide whatever support was within his ability to offer; that was only reasonable.
“…Of course, I do not intend to force a response. Prying into something that Suimei-dono does not want to reveal is simply my wishful thinking. If this is truly something that you do not want to speak of, then do not mind me. That being said, I still ask that you understand.”
The King bowed his head from where he sat on his throne, something that a ruler of a nation should never do. However, in order to protect the beliefs that he held dear to him, he could do naught else.
As he raised his head a moment later, his eyes caught sight of Suimei, utterly taken aback.
“Why would you do something like that? Why would you disgrace yourself to such an extent?”
From his expression, the degree of his surprise was evident.
With that, Suimei heaved a deep sigh, as if he’d finally resigned himself to something.
“No, rather, please forgive me for my impertinence. If there is something Your Majesty wishes this person of humble standing to answer, then please, ask freely.”
—Suimei continued to stand. His posture would likely be seen as disrespectful by others, but from the way his arrogant manner had vanished, and the change in his tone, it seemed that this was his true self. This was neither the confused, lost Suimei standing by the side of Reiji and Mizuki when they had been first summoned, nor was it the haughty, blunt persona he had shown just a moment ago. No, this was Suimei as he truly was: Yakagi Suimei, the magician.
For that reason, this was the greatest respect that he could show.
Suimei having expressed his willingness to comply, the King began his line of questioning.
“What kind of person are you?”
“In my world, we are known as magicians. We are scholars who delve into the mysteries of the world. More colloquially, we are existences roughly equivalent to the mages of your world.”
He mumbled the word he had just heard. Due to the influence of the hero summoning, the word “mage” had been mentioned quite frequently of late. However, this term struck him quite differently. Perhaps because it had been Suimei who had said it, the nature of the word had been conveyed: that it described something different from a “mage.” (“魔術師” is the term used to describe magicians of Suimei’s world, while “魔法使い” is used by the people of the other world. In the vernacular, they mean the same thing, but here, the author is likely emphasizing the difference in the individual characters to suggest the difference between their roles in the respective worlds, “師” meaning “specialist” and “使い” meaning “user.” Furthermore, the “術” in “魔術” is used to describe techniques or skills.)
The King immediately followed up with another question.
“Why, then, do you want to keep this all a secret? Putting us aside, you haven’t even allowed Hero-dono or Mizuki-dono to know.”
“You’ve already heard this from Reiji and Mizuki, but our world is different from yours: a world that has relied on science for its growth. In our world, magic is something that’s been forced into the underworld, having been targeted by every major power there. That’s why, on the surface of things, magicians aren’t something that exist in my world. Were we to appear once more in the open, we would undoubtedly be wiped out by those powers for non-compliance. For that reason, as far as the public is concerned, there is no such thing as a magician.”
As he finished speaking, he added a final remark, “That’s why I’ve hidden what I really am; caution is necessary.”
“From what you’ve said, it seems that not only could you not allow Reiji-dono and Mizuki-dono to know, you had to spare no effort to keep Felmenia silent because she’d discovered your true nature?”
“Yes. At that time, I wasn’t entirely certain how much she knew. How I would ensure her silence was a matter to be decided once that had been determined. Accordingly, I intentionally exposed myself in order to draw her in. Who could have guessed that she’d have set a trap for me with that dangerous golem… Since she had revealed herself as having no intentions of settling the matter with words, I took appropriate action. That was my decision at the time, anyway.”
Something of what he had said piqued the King’s interest.
“That’s correct. A rather formidable creation with the appearance of a knight. Reacting to its ambush, I destroyed it with my magic.”
“Mage Slamas’ golem, huh.”
When it came to the golem that had attacked Suimei, the King more or less had an understanding of its origins. Within the palace, the only golems were those created by Slamas. Indeed, when it came to autonomous golems, it could only be him.
Slamas’ golems were masterfully crafted, powerful existences. For her to have brought something like that out, Felmenia’s hardline attitude prior to her defeat was quite clear.
“Be that as it may, even if Felmenia had gone that far, don’t you think you went a bit overboard with your response?”
Progressing immediately to battle from such a situation seemed rather hasty, there should still have been some room for discussion.
Even if Felmenia had been the one to initiate things, he couldn’t help but ask that question.
In answer to his question, Suimei took on a strangely serious look.
“I won’t deny that I somewhat lost my cool. Nevertheless, I am one who treads the path of magic and we magicians adhere to a magician’s etiquette. When faced with a wild dog – sorry, a prideful young girl – raising her nose at me, to fail to punish such ferocious conduct would be unthinkable. That said, with regards to what happened afterward, well… I have to admit I might have been venting my anger at having been forcefully brought to this world.”
Suimei revealed a wry smile befitting one his age, and sighed.
“…Seriously, what a naughty brat.”
“Magicians are just such people. People who consider only what they stand to gain, without the least interest in anything else, who never spare a moment’s consideration for how their actions might affect those around them. That notwithstanding, considering how unrestrained Your Majesty has allowed Felmenia to be, I don’t think you have any right to complain.”
Certainly, even though he was well aware of Felmenia’s intentions, he had washed his hands of the matter. He definitely did not have the moral authority to condemn Suimei’s actions. Unrestrained magic use could be used for an uncountable number of evils. Although Suimei clearly possessed the power to realize his desires, he had chosen to avoid causing problems, instead holing up in his room. Even when he had left his room to investigate the palace, venturing through the storehouses, offices, and treasury – places that housed priceless objects – he had not done a thing.
In contrast, Felmenia’s violent actions could only be seen as deserving of the response that had come. He had no way of knowing what ideologies presided in the other world, but given the danger posed by the golem trap, even if Suimei had taken her life, they didn’t have the right to complain.
While he was thus reflecting, Suimei suddenly turned to face a nearby pillar.
“There’s no way—” the King thought to himself as Suimei suddenly broke the silence.
“…So that’s how it is. I was pretty much just venting my anger on whatever was right before me; that’s why you can rest assured, I won’t do anything like that to you again.”
Those words didn’t seem to have been intended for him— no, they had clearly been intended for someone else. Suimei had meant those words for Felmenia. A figure stepped out from behind the pillar.
Felmenia stepped out from behind the shadow of the pillar, a look of astonishment on her face.
Suimei gave her an indifferent glance before turning to face the King once more.
“…How long have you known?”
“To that, let me ask in turn: why would you ever assume I wouldn’t notice?”
That was a good point. Suimei was a magician. Rather than assuming he would always remain ignorant, it was better to work off the assumption that he would always figure things out.
“Suimei-dono. About this—”
“You don’t need to say anything. When you told me it was just the two of us at the start of our discussion, that was clearly a lie, but when you consider that it was for the sake of that woman who is a precious subject of yours, then it’s not like I can’t understand.”
The King offered a frank apology. That Felmenia had been hidden in the shadows at his side was not because she’d been guarding him, but because he was worried about her. Were Felmenia present at the scene, then perhaps Suimei would have been less than honest about her circumstances. Were she not in attendance, however, then she would have remained in ignorance as to the details of her circumstances. Thus he’d ordered her to hide herself.
The result? Suimei, having seen through their pretense from the very beginning, had nonetheless said what he had said.
Her face ashen, Felmenia called Suimei’s name.
“Whatever it is you want to say, there’s no need to look like that, is there? It’s like you’re cowering; if you’re a magician, then you should face even death with your back straight and head held high. Aren’t you older than me?”
Felmenia closed her mouth at his acerbic tone, unable to respond to his words.
Since Suimei seemed to be awaiting her question, she spoke.
“Then the reason you were investigating the hero summoning circle was…”
Because of his determination to return home.
“I’ve already said that I wish to return to our own world. There are things there that I absolutely cannot afford not to do. Moreover—”
“…Before the day comes that Reiji and Mizuki wish to return, I will need to have first prepared the way. Knowing that they will face danger, but unable to be at their side, this is something that I must do as a magician.”
“Ah—” The unexpected response elicited a gasp. Although his goal was as he had stated, to find a way to return home, unexpectedly, he had also taken his friends into consideration and sought to prepare a path leading them home.
Or actually, what was really surprising was…
“Wait, don’t tell me you can understand that thing?!”
“Given enough time, it shouldn’t prove that difficult.”
This was the hero summoning circle, something that was widely acknowledged to be beyond the realm of human comprehension, something that could neither be analyzed nor understood! And he’d said that he could unravel its mysteries!
This was a legacy countless generations old. Both the amount of mana to be used and the incantation to be chanted had to be enacted precisely as described by the instructions that had been left behind before it could be activated. Because its construction was far too advanced, the mechanisms behind its operation were not, as of yet, understood.
And yet this boy had said that he could do it! Furthermore…
With a tone of slight surprise, Suimei continued, “Although I’ve spent some time studying spirit summoning objects before, to find something this complicated here, of all places, is rather unexpected.”
It might be described as a stroke of luck.
“Seeing how much you worry about your friends, why haven’t you told them anything? Though even if he knew, Yuusha-dono…”
“Your Majesty. If they knew what I really was, it’d only put them in danger once we return to our own world,” Suimei interrupted.
There were more reasons than his personal safety as to why he couldn’t let them know his true nature.
“And so you just keep it all to yourself?”
“Your Majesty, I can’t say I understand what your world is like, but our world is like a nest of vipers.”
“A nest of vipers?”
“Yes. In our world, even if someone does their best to keep quiet, simply possessing knowledge is a danger all its own. Reading someone’s memories, erasing memories, forcing someone to tell you what they know – if we’re talking about magic, there are too many ways to count. Where we’re from, to openly make my identity known would carry a terrible price. Beyond that, our world has its fair share of madmen who bare their fangs at people just for having the knowledge that magicians exist.”
“Magic in your world is such a horrific thing?”
The King fell into a thoughtful silence at Suimei’s honest nod.
Assuming Suimei’s words were true, he still thought openness was the right choice, while at the same time, something that simply couldn’t be done. When compared, the magic of his world was far darker and more insidious than their own. Enemies lurked around every corner and danger was constant, and so they’d been forced into hiding. Given that, the fact that Suimei had chosen to hide who he was made a lot of sense.
“Once Reiji and Mizuki desire to return home, I won’t have much choice but to be honest with them then. But having been at their side until now, and having kept my identity a secret all this time… it’s going to be hard.”
As he’d said, once they saw the magic that would take them home, there’d be no way around an explanation. They’d learned magic now, after all; once they returned home, there would rules about magic back home that they’d have to know. Although he acknowledged that revealing the truth was a necessity, but as he thought about how Suimei felt, he felt that it wouldn’t be quite that simple.
With all these thoughts in mind, the King’s expression revealed his complicated feelings. In a regretful tone, he spoke up once more.
“…So, in short, you still have no plans to join them?”
“I’ve already said this, but I don’t like doing reckless things.”
“For someone like you, who can defeat Felmenia, it doesn’t seem that reckless to me? Moreover, if it’s you, Suimei-dono, couldn’t you become Yuusha-dono’s strength?”
“Probably. But I don’t think there’s any need for that.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Although we argued pretty heatedly back then, but Reiji is not that shallow a person. Even if he’s always doing things that I don’t expect, he does think things through, and when the moment comes, he’s surprisingly cautious when making final judgment. Moreover, when you factor in the tremendous powers bestowed by the hero summoning, my worries are really just a small thing. While there’s no guarantee that the Maou suppression force will actually succeed, but I don’t think he’ll die that easily.”
“That’s why I don’t need to worry that much,” Suimei said with a smile.
He seemed to trust Reiji quite deeply.
Suimei, however, continued with an uneasy tone, “They’ll probably still run into some hard times, though.”
This was probably because he’d thoughtfully considered their path ahead and couldn’t be described as indifferent to those hard times they were to face.
At this, the King again sought confirmation from Suimei.
“Just to confirm, Felmenia…”
“As I said before, as long as she doesn’t say anything unnecessary, it’ll be as if nothing happened at all. —Actually, I guess it doesn’t matter at this point.”
With a look of relief, Suimei pulled out a white sheet of paper. At first glance, that sheet of paper, white as snow, didn’t look any different from any other piece of paper. A closer look, however, would reveal some writing and a seal of blood.
Suimei proceeded to fold the sheet as if preparing to tear it apart.
The blood drained from Felmenia’s face as she cried out, though Suimei acted as if he hadn’t heard.
The sound of paper tearing filled her ears.
As she fell to the floor, engulfed by emotion, shreds of torn paper fluttered to the audience room floor.
Emptying his hands, Suimei snapped his fingers whereupon the paper fragments were consumed by flame and disappeared.
“Miss Royal Mage, with this, the curse upon you has been lifted. You owe your life to His Majesty.”
Putting all thoughts of Felmenia out of his mind with a snort, Suimei turned to the King once more.
“Is that okay?” the King asked.
“You wish for there to be trust between us, Your Majesty; this was the wall separating us. Between us, there is no longer any need for such a thing.”
He continued, “However, I ask that you do not inform Reiji and the others. I request that you promise to neither reveal nor hint at any of this. At least until the time comes when I have no other choice…”
“I understand. It will be as you say.”
The King promised to do as Suimei had requested. Seeing as the other party had conceded this much already, he had no reason to refuse.
He then proceeded to inquire about Suimei’s plans for the future.
“What do you plan to do after this? If there’s anything within the palace that can aid you in your goal of returning home, don’t hesitate to ask.”
They were the guests of the King and his subjects who had brought them here. That responsibility would not disappear. It had been for that reason they had willingly hosted them here in the palace. To continue to care for Suimei until the magic needed to return home was completed was only natural. Well, that was as long as Suimei intended to stay, of course; if he had other plans, then he’d like to know.
Suimei shook his head.
“That’s unnecessary. When Reiji and the others depart, I will as well.”
“I plan to visit the Nelferian Empire. The Empire stands as the crossroads of three different nations, and so it’s the best place to go to acquire the information and materials I’ll need,” Suimei explained.
Indeed, the Nelferian Empire was a central hub that had to be passed through when reaching these kingdoms, Aster included. Subsequently, it was far more connected. Because the Aster Kingdom was an allied nation, travel between the two would be fairly simple. Just as Suimei had said, from the perspective of gathering intel and resources, that was indeed the most suitable location.
If he had to be honest with himself, the King would rather not have let such a powerful mage as Suimei out of his reach. However, seeing as restraining his actions was not within their ability, trying to force him to stay wasn’t a good idea.
“…So that’s how it is. Well, then if there’s anything I can help with, please feel free to let me know. Knowing what you can do, any aid I might render is likely inconsequential, but if there’s anything I can do, I will do my best.”
Although he’d offered to support Suimei in his goal, Suimei did not nod.
“I greatly appreciate the sentiment, but please don’t mind me.”
“Why not? This is a foreign land for you, Suimei-dono. You really don’t need any help whatsoever?”
Suimei was a person from another world with a different culture and customs. Moreover, he lacked a guide to rely on. For that reason, life here would be very difficult indeed. A certain amount of assistance should be expected.
“It’s fine. After this, I’ll be seen as someone who couldn’t take it anymore and left. There’s no need to offer any support to such a person. That’ll be the best considering our respective reputations.”
“After having caused such a commotion upon our arrival and then having subsequently holed up in my room, your people’s opinion of me is rather low. If you were to assist such an individual, while there would be some who would support your actions, many, many more would complain and resent you for doing so. This is not in your best interest.”
Suimei’s reading of the situation was spot on. Particularly were he to leave the palace, the King had to admit, there would be no small amount of gossipping and backbiting. Were he to further offer Suimei any assistance, the people would be furious. “Why is the King taking care of a useless piece of garbage like that? Does he only care about people from that world?” etc.
“I understand that, but I want to offer my help nonetheless?”
“Believe me, I appreciate it, but it’s too troublesome.”
Suimei’s forceful tone had left me speechless. This Suimei seemed to be quite stubborn, not caring one whit about either others’ opinion of him or the offered aid, thinking them not worth considering.
Perhaps such a notion had been inspired purely by confidence in his abilities, but it couldn’t be said that such confidence was without basis.
Just what are those eyes of his staring at? They’re definitely not looking at me, the King thought to himself. No, those are eyes envisioning the difficulties that lie ahead, eyes that fully intend to challenge them head-on.
That powerful gaze didn’t seem like it could have come from someone his age.
“…On the road of life, there will inevitably be mountains to climb. No matter how big they are, or how tall, any without the ability to cross such obstacles has no right to call themselves a magician. And I, Yakagi Suimei, am a magician, someone who challenges the mysteries of the world head-on, with my head held high. And so allow me to reiterate, Your Majesty, I sincerely appreciate the offer, but the sentiment is more than enough.”
The young man before him, speaking in a solemn tone, showed no weaknesses. There was in him a pride and a strength unique to those geniuses who wholeheartedly chased after miracles.
This young man was anything but ordinary. “An ordinary person caught up in the hero summoning” he was not.
As he watched the young man with a renewed sense of astonishment, Suimei spoke again in a grave tone, mocking himself.
“…Though even if I try to sound cool, in the end, I’m just a coward who, fearing for his own life, ran away from battle.”
“If that’s the case, then all of us who have pushed the burden of the Maou on completely unrelated people are just as much to blame. That, of course, includes myself…”
Who could blame Suimei? The only ones who could judge his decision to avoid battling the Maou were those who had challenged the terror of the Maou directly. No, those who were hiding themselves where it was safe had no right to say any such things. Particularly given that Suimei was someone who had resolved to challenge the difficulties lying ahead all alone, there was not a one with the right to judge him.
To someone like Suimei, with numerous dreams and endless desires, staying here would only lead to stagnance. He couldn’t be sure, but staying here would likely only cause Suimei pain. As he thought back to the young man anxiously shouting in this room before, he couldn’t help but be grieved.
From that, he had been able to tell how Suimei felt, because he’d felt such feelings before. However, those had only been temporary partings from his daughter… he had no way of truly understanding just how Suimei felt.
The King sank into silence, lost in a whirlpool of emotion.
Slowly, Suimei spoke.
“Is there anything else you’d like to know?”
“In that case—”
Accepting his good will, the King asked many more questions. About him, about Reiji and Mizuki. Not restricting the conversation to just magic, they even talked about the relationship between the three friends.
For the two, this open conversation had been a long time coming.
Time passed, and Suimei left to return to his room. As he watched the young man depart, the King turned to his subject by his side.
“A truly enlightening discussion. Yuusha-dono and Mizuki-dono likely have never heard such things, correct?”
“It is as you say, Your Majesty.”
The binding on her having been released, her expression having returned to normal, Felmenia agreed. She was the teacher of the Hero as well as someone acquainted with Reiji more personally, but she’d never had such an intimate discussion with the Hero. It was, from her perspective, rather refreshing.
Both parties fully understood one another, nothing hidden, and had come to an understanding. Any possible concerns and anxiety had been dispelled.
“…I don’t suppose… There’s no way Suimei-dono could have foreseen this outcome from the very beginning, could he?”
“Even assuming he did, he was way too careless still. If reality ever diverged from what he’d expected, then there’d be grievous consequences, and yet we’ve clearly seen he hasn’t prepared anything for such an eventuality.”
Just as she’d said, if the King had been unwilling to bow his head, and instead taken a hardline stance, then Suimei’s prediction would have been incorrect, and an insurmountable gap would have resulted. That notwithstanding, Felmenia’s remark that Suimei had made no preparations was undeniably false, the evidence being on Suimei’s person directly.
“Felmenia. Suimei-dono’s clothing… do you know what it represents?”
“His clothing? That’s his combat attire— Ah!”
She’d realized. Combat attire.
Having understood what he’d meant, she looked at the King with admiration in her eyes.
“You are certainly wise, my king. Although Suimei-dono said not a word, you clearly understood.”
“The second he entered, I felt an atmosphere in the room of a general, returning victorious from battle. That’s how I knew,” he answered, reminiscing.
As the cloak had appeared out of thin air to rest on Suimei’s person, he’d been reminded of a general, returning from battle, traces of blood still on his clothes. He’d seen in his clothing the feeling of a man ready to return to the battlefield at any moment.
There was simply no way Suimei had not made any preparations beforehand, either for peaceful reconciliation or something more forceful—
“…I fear he was prepared no matter the outcome. If we presented ourselves as his enemy, then we would be dealt with accordingly. How we treated him would be how we would be dealt with. However the situation developed, he had an appropriate response prepared. We have, after all, numerous openings on this side. He’d probe those openings and determine if we could be trusted enough to settle this peacefully. If he determined that we sought to harm him, then he would have been far more forceful.”
“Then does that not mean that tonight was a trap of sorts?”
“Even so, no harm no foul. Suimei-dono said that he has magic to manipulate memories. Even if things had taken a turn for the worse, and even if he couldn’t allow Reiji-dono or Mizuki-dono to know, he likely had ways to handle such a situation. If we had had any intention of harming him, there was no way we could allow the Hero to find out, and so we’d have to avoid a commotion at all costs. Our only choice would be to ambush him with a small force of our most elite. —Given that he’d already read the situation in advance, do you think there is any possibility of our victory in such an event?”
Having been freed from her oath, Felmenia could now answer such questions. Given Suimei’s strength, would it be possible for the palace’s most elite forces to successfully ambush him?
She considered for a moment before answering solemnly.
“Is that so. Huh.”
Surprisingly, Felmenia’s to-the-point answer had not surprised him. He’d already guessed that Suimei’s strength was of such a level, and so he readily accepted her assessment.
“But still, Your Majesty, do you really think Suimei-dono had thought things through to such an extent?”
“That, who knows?”
“This is all just conjecture. There’s really no way to verify the truth of it. No matter how logical what we’ve just discussed might be, as long as Suimei-dono never says a word, then conjecture is all it will ever be.”
Felmenia’s brow furrowed. Whether or not she truly understood, and even if she’d been the one to point things out, there was really no way to truly understand what Suimei had been thinking.
“For him as well, bowing my head to him must have come as a complete shock.”
Indeed, this statement was almost certainly true. Because he, who should not be bowing to anyone, had lowered his head before him, Suimei had finally decided him worthy of trust.
“…That I can sympathize with.”
“That’s fine, don’t worry about it.”
The matter settled, the King changed the topic, his tone grave.
“—Now then, Felmenia. Let us discuss your punishment.”
Felmenia did not object. Before they had summoned Suimei, she had already expressed her willingness to accept responsibility. She waited silently.
“…Understood. No matter what it is, I submit myself wholeheartedly.”
“Then, Royal Mage of the Court, Felmenia Stingray: I strip you of your title, and—”
And with that, the long night for magician and kingdom both, drew to a close.